Conscience Excerpts–Chapter Twelve

conscienceFor those who might be interested, I’m going to post consecutive chapters of my novel, Conscience, here once weekly. Hope you enjoy! :)

Chapter Twelve

It was 8:00 a.m and the lawyers crowded around the conference table small talking and glancing expectantly at the large, ornate clock on the wall, the one the vice president had given the mayor as a thank you for his discreet handling of his son’s indiscretions while on a Spring Break trip to Los Angeles. The air smelled of polished leather and strong coffee from their flashy, designer briefcases and their early morning Starbucks runs. It was a powerhouse group that had gathered for this unusual meeting, leading attorneys from the largest firms in Los Angeles. On most days, they would be competitors, seldom being seen together unless it was in a courtroom or a judge’s chambers but they were intrigued by the “summons.”

Each of them had received the same, simple message: “Kevin Gunther would like to secure your services for a delicate but extremely lucrative matter, one that requires the utmost level of confidentiality. He has additionally reached out to some of your leading competitors in a desire to assemble a team of the most brilliant legal minds for this endeavor. He trusts that your sense of vision and enlightenment will transcend your rivalries, at least until this matter is resolved.” The note concluded with the particulars of the meeting place and it was signed, Judy May, the mayor’s personal assistant, who, some believed, carried nearly as much influence as the mayor himself in making things happen politically in L.A.

People never disregarded invitations from either Judy or the mayor and so it was that at 8:00 Monday morning, they were settling into the comfy, leather chairs in the posh conference room outside of Mayor Gunther’s office.

He entered with a flourish, a whirl of energy and intensity. His eyes flashed around the room, taking in every detail of those who were present and accounted for, while simultaneously shaking hands and greeting each of the assembled law giants by name. More than one of them found themselves admiring the mayor. He was one of the most controlled, confident men they had ever met. Perfectly comfortable in his own skin, he was the consummate people-person, able to relate with anyone in a disarming, compelling way, regardless of his or her age or station in life.

He came around to the head of the table and greeted them collectively with a flash of his brilliant smile.

“Gentlemen and ladies,” he began with a nod to the few ladies in attendance. “I know you are busy and I truly appreciate your time this morning.”

Several of them concealed smirks, like any of them had anything better to do than parley with the mayor. Kevin Gunther was going places. Most considered it a done deal that his next home would be in the governor’s mansion in Sacramento, although others, shrewd political analysts, thought he might skip the governorship altogether and move his family straight to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C. No, none of them were too busy for this meeting. They were right where they wanted to be. Meetings like this were where careers were made.

The mayor continued. “I need a lawyer.”

Chuckles broke out around the table. The mayor never did or said anything without consulting the legal advice of his best friend and long-time counselor, Ray Gibbs. Ray was in the room now, sitting in the corner studying each of the attorneys in attendance, his face an imperceptible mask. He and the mayor had been friends since childhood but he had already built a reputation as a fearsome attorney with his brilliant mind and bulldog tactics in the courtroom before Kevin had recruited him away from his big firm and asked him to serve as his personal attorney and confidante. No, Ray hadn’t ridden anywhere on Kevin’s coattails. In fact, many attributed Kevin’s meteoric rise in politics to his relationship with Ray.

“Seriously folks, I need an attorney, a team of them actually.”

He paused to look at each lawyer in turn, checking to ensure that they were the right ones. Judy had certainly done her homework, inviting only the best, only the ones with enough ambition to sign on to his proposal and with enough guts to stick it out when it got ugly because it inevitably would.

“I’ve recently come into possession of a piece of knowledge that could potentially change modern medicine as we know it. Handled appropriately, this information could also produce a significant amount of wealth. A very significant amount.” He finished meaningfully.

Most of the lawyers leaned forward appreciatively in their seats, anxious to hear more and grateful for Kevin’s no-nonsense approach to the meeting. Each of them was already rich by anyone’s estimation so Kevin’s emphasis on the words a very significant amount hooked their curiosity and their greed, just as Kevin knew it would.

One of them, however, an attorney named Elliott Blythe, shifted uncomfortably in his chair and made a pretense of looking at his calendar. Ray Gibbs made a mental note of this, wrote something in his legal pad with his full point ink pen and then he stood.

“Thank you, that will be all for today,” he said. “We will be in touch.” With that he was moving forward and escorting Kevin out of the conference room. “Feel free to show yourselves out.”

The meeting was over just like that.

The gathered attorneys sat in bewildered silence for a few seconds and then began gathering their belongings and showing themselves out. They knew that something had just happened to spook Ray and they were desperately trying to discern what it was. They didn’t speak to each other on the way out. Each was wrapped in his own thoughts.

Without a word being uttered, there was a shared knowledge among them as they entered the elevator and stood in awkward silence. Kevin was right to have approached them. Collectively, they were the best attorneys on the West Coast, a true legal dream team but individually they held an additional appeal. They were indebted to Kevin, some of them deeply and not just for trivial things like the mutual exchange of legal and political favors. Some of them were indebted to him in ways that could end their careers if word ever leaked out. Their initial excitement had dampened significantly and the rueful emotions of those who had climbed to the top by any means necessary, began to settle into their guts.

Then, to counter those negative emotions, they began the mental gymnastics attempting to convince themselves that they were overreacting about Ray’s abrupt interruption. This was probably just Ray Gibbs’ quirky way of screening potential talent and surely they would be summoned again.

They all knew it would never be that simple. Nothing with Kevin Gunther ever was.

End of Chapter Twelve. To purchase this book and continue reading in printed or electronic form click here.

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